Tragedies and Goals

It was another weekend where not enough got accomplished. As per usual, one of two things happened. I either over planned more than I could get gone or I under planned. In this case, I failed to plan.

 I usually make my weekend plans on Thursday or Friday. But this week, I got busy. And I got distracted. The result? When the weekend came around, not enough got done. I took too much free time and worked on tasks of lesser importance. I failed to make clear goals which in turn got me no closer to my high, hard goals.

The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.

Benjamin Mays

Yes, it was just one weekend. There will hopefully be more in the future. And though I look at it as a tragedy, it doesn’t even compare to what Dr. Mays stated as the real tragedy: having no goals to reach.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have goals. I probably have more goals than I wish to admit. But what is a goal if it is not planned and executed? A pure fantasy. The bad thing about fantasies is they don’t get us closer to our intended destination. Instead, they consume valuable time. And time, as William Penn once said, is what we want most, but what we use worst.

I know I need to do better. My hope is to reach my goals. If I don’t improve my planning, I run the risk of not seeing them come to fruition.


Feature photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

Your Own Personal Treasure Island

There are a few quotes that have always resonated with me. Thoreau had a good one about us only hitting at what we aim at. Therefore, he said, we should aim at something high even though we might fail immediately. Mix his words with Les Brown’s quote about shooting for the moon. If we do not make it to the moon, he said, at least we might land among the stars. I spend a good amount of time considering my aim in life. I also spend an equal amount of time considering the consequences of missing that mark.

Can you really lose if your aim is in the right direction? I don’t think so, and well, it reminds me of something Bruce Lee said: “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”  These are some very encouraging words from Thoreau, Brown, and Lee. And though I do take a small amount of comfort in remembering them, missing the mark is still missing the mark.

There are a few things in this life that I feel called to do. Failure to do them, I believe, would haunt me into my next existence. And these are things that I do not do for the gold or the glory. Yet by achieving them, I believe I would find more wealth than on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding.

Robert Louis Stevenson

I remember my land navigation classes from the Army. You plot out your destination on the map and figure out how you are going to get there. You pull out your compass and find the direction you need to go. Sometimes obstacles get in the way, and you find yourself deviating off the path. Once you realize this, you adjust your aim and correct your course. The journey might seem never-ending. At times, it might seem impossible, but we have no choice to keep going. Keep aiming and adjusting because the rewards are too great. In fact, it is the only fortune worth finding.

Ready, Aim, Fire, and Then Repeat

Who doesn’t want to reach their goals? I know I do. And when it comes to goals, it seems like I have one for almost every area of my life. You name it, I probably have a goal for it: personal, professional, fitness, writing, financial, and spiritual. Yep, this list could go on. And though I want to conquer all of them, sometimes it is just not achievable. If I was a perfectionist, this would drive me crazy. Thank God I am not and no longer pretend to be. Instead of perfection, I am more interested in progression. Like the Taoist proverb says, “The journey is the reward.”

One of my main fitness goals these days has to do with rowing. I want to see how fast I can go and how high I can move up in the rankings for my age and weight. To reach my targets, I am rowing nearly every day. My mind is almost completely consumed with this and many of my decisions in other areas of my life depend on whether or not it will make me a better rower. Will I eat this or drink that? I don’t’ know, will it slow me down. Should I go to bed or can I stay up a little longer? Hmm, will I feel rested enough and be able to get up before 4 in the morning?

How likely is it that I can reach all my rowing goals? Probably not very, but I do know it won’t be from a lack of trying. And what happens if I don’t? My ego might take a blow, but everything else (fitness, discipline, nutrition, etc.) will be at a higher level. To progress in those areas without reaching my goal would still be worth it.

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at. -Bruce Lee

I would invite you today to prepare your mind and ready your soul by choosing a difficult goal. Set your aim on it and make it all consuming. And then fire. Fire toward that goal with all you got. Fire with discipline, courage, and an unrelenting resolve. Keep firing. Keep hammering with all the physical and mental force you can muster. There are no cheat codes or short-cuts here, well except for maybe one.

Get after it and farewell.

Dream Time

Begin with the end in mind.

I have heard the above quote before, but I was reminded of it this week while listening to The Art of Manliness Podcast #607  with Stephen M.R. Covey covering his father’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

What is the ultimate end? Death. For a moment, consider what might be said at your funeral. How will you be remembered by your spouse, children, co-workers, and community? What would you like them to say about you? That is your end. And if your goal is to get them to say what you would like them to say, then it would be best if you begin planning and working on it now.

In the same fashion, you could imagine where you want to be in 5, 10, or even 20 years. Once the seed is planted in the imagination, we must begin the cultivation process and allow that seed to grow into reality. Start at the end, draw out the blueprints, lay the foundation, and then complete the project.

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. -T.E. Lawrence

As long as we have breath in our bodies, we can set a new goal. We can have the waking dreams that make us dangerous in the good way. In the book Super Brain by Rudolph E. Tanzi and Deepak Chopra, we learn that cells are dynamic. As long as they keep moving, they live. But once they stop, they die. Even into our later years, we can continue moving. It is only when we become stagnant that we lose the dynamic ability to achieve new growth. The key is to keep growing, to keep improving.

For some of us, we suddenly have more time on our hands than ever before. What will you do with this time? If you have nothing to keep you occupied, it might be a good time to start dreaming. Set a new goal. Dream a new dream. Become the person you want to be known as when you come to your journey’s end.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. –C.S. Lewis

The Challenge of Big Goals

Sometimes I will watch my son Alec play a game. The game is way too easy, and he wins every time. I will ask him why he plays it. He simply responds that it is something he enjoys.

If a game is too challenging, he will get frustrated and stop playing. If it is too hard, it isn’t very fun for this seven year old. Ideally the goal of any game is to win and to have fun. Alec is not going to willingly challenge his mental capacities for the sake of challenging his mental capacities. At his age, that is not enough of an incentive to play the game.

As we get older, our motivations become more complex. Of course, we like to have fun, and we want to win. But we also have to add in elements of “it needs to be done” or “it will make us better.” We lose the simplicity of our childhood for the higher purpose of necessity. We force ourselves to do what we think is in our best interests. It is why we set resolutions at the beginning of the year in hopes of some monumental change. There is an inner desire to become better, to put it on paper, and commit to it. By the way, how are those resolutions going?

The commission from the church came in. They approached the candidates and asked for their proposals. They wanted something spectacular, something worthy to adorn the temple of God. They wanted a masterpiece to grace the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Imagine if Michelangelo gave them a simple proposal. Picture him saying, “Well, I can maybe paint a cross on a blue background with a couple of clouds floating in the distance.” Could you imagine the response from the ceiling committee? They would have passed on him and went to the next artist. They didn’t want basic. They wanted something that would inspire wonder in the hearts of their parishioners. Michelangelo took the job and painted the ceiling in about four years. His work would last for centuries and be replicated in hundreds of different ways so that the masses could place a reminder of it in their homes.

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our goal is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. –Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s work on that ceiling was an enormous project. His goals in the beginning were no small thing. He challenged himself, and he completed it. When it comes to goal setting, his example would be the gold standard of shooting for the moon. And what would have happened if he never finished it? What if he died in the last year of the project? I don’t think he would have been overly disappointed. Yes, of course he would have wanted to finish it, but it would not have been for a lack of effort on his part.

The opposite of the gold standard for goal setting would be to make set them too low. It would be like playing a game that is way too easy. Those type of goals do not make us better people. They don’t push us to see what we are capable of accomplishing. Today, I am going to take a moment and look at the goals I am setting for myself. Are they going to challenge me or are they going to give me a false sense of accomplishment? Am I working to become better or am I choosing to remain stagnant?

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. -Les Brown

Target Acquisition

You could have asked me as a kid what I wanted to do when I grow up, and I would have told you something different every day. I didn’t really care what I wanted to be. There were so many good options out there, and they were all appealing. I ended up doing none of the things I thought I once wanted to do. On the other hand, I have friends who knew what they wanted to be at an early age and are doing it today.

It wasn’t until I got older that I had the big “I want to be this” moment. That was twenty years ago, and I’m still working toward it. Will I achieve my dreams? Of course I can, but only if I keep working toward it.

To be able to visualize the end point and move in that direction is really what this life should be about. Can you imagine not being able to answer St. Peter when he asks you why you should be able to go through the gate? As far as we know, we only get one chance on this earth. Would you risk squandering it on no definite purpose in life? Would you not make every day count towards achieving your great purpose?

Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of achievement. –W. Clement Stone

Let us back up a moment and get away from the grand design of your life. Maybe you haven’t found it yet, or what you have found is still a question mark. If you don’t know what the grand is, then maybe you have to go with the minute. Regardless of the scale of the goal, you need to have that definitive aim. You need to know what you are aiming at before you release the arrow. Otherwise, you might hit everything but your target.

To achieve your goals, consider DMAIC. This is a part of Six Sigma used to improve business processes. Take you goal, whether it to lose weight or build your dream cake business, and create a systematic approach to achieving it.

  • Define – What’s your goal? To lose ten pounds.
  • Measure – How will you measure it? Calories in vs. Calories out. Weight scale.
  • Analyze – Take a good look at your performance? Use a tracker, journal, or both. What’s the quality of the calories coming in? What’s the quality of the calories being burned (exercise)?
  • Improve – What corrections can be made? Review your analysis and find sustainable solutions, i.e. reduce sugar, stop eating late at night, work out earlier in the morning.
  • Control – Ensure improvements are implemented and maintained. Keep track of these too and put in some control systems (alarms, family members and friends).

Success achieving small goals will lead to greater confidence in attacking bigger goals. But your chances of hitting your goals will be slim, if you do not know what you are aiming at.

Stuck

Ever find yourself stuck, not knowing where to go, unsure of the next chapter in your life? Of course, you have big plans, hopes, and dreams, but you seemed to have stalled?

The ship left the yard. Sleek, shiny, and new. It was built to cut through the roughest of seas. But without a navigator, it only sits in the harbor. Oh, don’t worry. Nothing is going to happen to the ship. The harbor is protected. The ship sits in safety.

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for. -William Shedd

How many hours I have passed lying in bed? How many hours sitting on the couch, playing video games or watching television? How often have I made the choice to relax in comfort in the safety of my home? Living a life consuming, rather than creating? If I get really down to the brass tacks, how much time reading? Is reading really that much better than watching? Am I not still consuming in the safe confines of my personal harbor? Is this what I was built for?

I was built for action. I was built to move. It is what my early ancestors did. Hunt, gather, or die. They didn’t sit in the cave hoping food would appear from nowhere. If they wanted to eat, they had to get it. Generation after generation until I showed up on the scene. Did I think sitting in the harbor was the best use of the genes that made me who I am?

A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder. -Thomas Carlyle

It is July. More than half way through the year. As I look back on the last six months, I was on a self-improvement roller coaster. Climbing, coasting, running flat. I think my elevation gain on life’s journey has been positive, but am I really better than I was at the beginning of the year? Am I any closer to the goals I laid out six months ago? How many times have my goals for the future changed over the last few months? I may be a man with too many goals spinning around in erratic circles.

There is something I need to do. It may be something we all need to do. I need to stop, get out my compass, and find my true north. What is it I am really aiming for? Can I get there if I have too many way-points along the journey? How can I get where I want to go, if I don’t even know where I am going?

If you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there. -Yogi Berra

Move Your Mountain

How often have I looked into the future and viewed that great achievement of my imagination? I could smell it, visualize it, almost reach out and touch it. I would imagine how great it would be to accomplish it. The vision would often continue in my mind for a few days, even for weeks. And then, it would fade. I wouldn’t write it down. I wouldn’t plan it out. I wouldn’t begin the work. It was only a dream, one of many.

The vision is a mountain. It is tall and majestic. In all its glory, looming large within the scopes of my imagination, I would never be able to move it. It is simply too big. Or is it? I can take away a bit at a time. It would be hard work. It would take time. But time and work equals results. If I broke it down into small milestones, the pieces would be more manageable. With the right plan and persistence, that dream could be a reality.

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away a small stone.” –Confucius

 

Navigating Land, Navigating Life

What lessons can be learned from land navigation? Looking back on my first experiences in the Army and browsing through Army Field Manual 3-25.26 Map Reading and Land Navigation, I found some simple truths that can help get a person from point A to point B.

The critical skills of shoot, move, and communicate must be trained, practiced, and sustained at every level in the schools as well as in the unit.(1.1 Building Block Approach)

People have been gleaning wisdom from military practices for centuries. Whether it is Sun Tzu’s The Art of War or a leadership seminar outlining the Battle of Gettysburg, corporate executives are continuously on the hunt for ways to separate themselves from the competition and lead their organizations into the future. I remember reading field manuals in the Army, but I never looked at the deeper philosophy they could provide. I only read and learned on a superficial level for the next test. Twenty years later, I may be going back to my roots.

Navigating the land or life, here’s what you need:

A Map

Basic? Yes, but here is what a map can do:

  1. It shows you what is where.
  2. It shows you where you are and where you want to go.
  3. It will show you all the obstacles between you and your destination.
  4. It will inform you of the distance and give you an idea of what it takes to get there.

A map is a great tool as long as you know how to read it. Like life, the two critical things you need to know is where you are and where you want to go. If you don’t know where you are, you are going to have to do some searching to find yourself. If you don’t know where you want to go, you are going to have to decide on that too, so you don’t find yourself wandering about.

Failing to use the vast amounts of information presented by the map and available to the eye on the ground reduces the chances for success in land navigation. The soldier who has repeatedly practiced the skills of identifying and discriminating the many types of terrain and other features knows how these features are mapped…By studying the map, he can begin to visualize the shape of the land…This soldier is the one who will be at the right place to help defeat the enemy on the battlefield. (Terrain Association Ch 11)

If you want to get where you are going, then study your map. Recognize the features on the map and compare it to your surroundings. Use all of the information available to you so that you may reach your objective.

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When you don’t know what harbor you’re aiming for, no wind is the right wind. –Seneca

Direction

Being in the right place at the right time is necessary to successfully accomplish military missions. Direction plays an important role in the soldier’s everyday life. (Ch 6 Direction)

Where are you headed? What is your mission in life? You have to be able to identify the target before you can aim for it. I didn’t always know where I was going. Through my early adult years, I was just meandering about with no specific direction. I was a dabbler. I felt I could do anything, be anything, and I failed to aim for just one thing. Once I got an inkling of what my “calling” in life was, I started travelling in that direction. My progress was slow. At times, I think it is still slow. But I am not worried. We all travel at different paces. I may not be where I want to be, but I will get to the right place at the right time.

An aim in life is the only fortune worth having. –Robert Louis Stevenson

A Compass

Once you have your map and a little direction, you need a compass. It will point you where you need to go. A good compass will not lie to you. It will always point you where you need to go. But a compass, like a map, is just a tool. You have to know how to use it. You have to know that the magnetic north on a compass is not the same as true north and not the same as the north on your map. You have to realize its limitations and make the necessary adjustments.

Recently, I watched a Jim Rohn video on YouTube. He made a few statements that had a profound effect on me. First he said, “Five years from now you will arrive, the question is where.” Visualize all the places you could go. Are any of them the actual objective, or closer to the objective? There are many places I could be five years from now but only one place I really want to be. The other thing he mentions is, “You will go the direction you are facing.” Become an expert with your compass, and you will find that you are always going in the right direction.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live the life you have imagined. –Henry David Thoreau

Tactical Consideration

However, the unnecessary use of a difficult route makes navigation too complicated, creates more noise when proceeding over it, causes wear and tear on equipment and personnel, increases the need for and needlessly complicates recovery operations, and wastes scarce time. (11.4)

Simplicity is key to your navigation. Executing an overly complex plan has a greater chance of failure which could result in the loss of valuable resources (time, energy, etc.). The simpler you can keep your plan, the greater chances you have of success. Identify your obstacles and find a way to overcome them. Identify your milestones and find a way to meet them. Regardless of the length of your route, your primary goal is to get there as efficiently as possible with as many resources as you can keep.

Movement and Route Selection

There are four steps to land navigation. Being given an objective and the requirement to move there, you must

  1. know where you are,
  2. plan the route,
  3. stay on the route,
  4. and recognize the objective. (11.5)

It is the basics whether in land navigation or in life navigation. You must know where you are, make a plan, stick to the plan, and recognize your objective once you get there. There are so many tools available to us. As we advance technologically, those tools make our ability to get to our objective much easier than any other time in history. The only question is how far are you willing to go. The farther the journey, the more time, effort, and energy will be required of you. But with persistence and a continual eye on your map and compass, you can reach your destination.

If you enjoyed the post, I would love to hear from you. Want to see more, sign up to have all my posts delivered to your inbox. Thank you for reading, and I will leave you with a few more quotes to consider:

Those who aim at great deeds must also suffer greatly. -Plutarch

Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star. –W. Clement Stone

A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at. –Bruce Lee

The wisest men follow their own direction. -Euripedes

Systems

I have always been one to create goals. In my mind, I shoot for the moon. In reality, I come up far short. “This is the year I am going to achieve my fitness goals” or “This year, I will write that book” were annual phrases in my life. My list of all the things I wanted to accomplish in the future kept growing. So many goals created, so little to show for it. Until I unknowingly started creating systems.

It started with work on the assembly line. Do the same work over and over and achieve the same results. The consistency I learned in manufacturing, I began to apply to daily routines. I applied a lean manufacturing concept to my pre-work habits, which tremendously helped me get through those early years working the night shift. The more consistent my routine, the less chance something would go wrong that would keep me from making it to work. I would try to automate my life in every aspect from meal prep to placing my wallet and keys in the exact same place every day. I didn’t know that what I was doing back then would become an integral part of who I am today.

Over the last year, a new system has been instituted into my workout routine. In the past, I would work out when I could at whatever time was available. This of course, led to inconsistent behaviors. With inconsistent behaviors you get inconsistent results. I realized that after a hard day of working on the production line, I was less likely to get in a quality workout, if I even got one in. Often I was too tired or too dehydrated. Back then I was primarily a runner, and after standing all day on my feet, the thought of pounding the pavement was unbearable. In addition, there was the guilty conscience of selfishly spending the last few hours of the day on myself instead of my family.

I was not happy with the results I was achieving. Something had to change. I had to change. So I started working out in the morning. This meant I would have to get up before 5 a.m. to start. So I set my alarm for 4:30. But it was too inconsistent. I would hit the snooze button, make too much noise getting ready, or start too late. I had to bump up the time, though that didn’t keep me from snoozing. So I had to make incremental changes to get it right. I started to get the mix right by setting the alarm at 4, laying out my clothes the night before, and drinking a large glass of water when I woke up. Now my success rate was close to 75%. When I started planning my workouts the night before, my percentages started to improve.

WorkoutSystem

After a month of getting up at 4, I stumbled upon the Jocko Podcast. This affirmed what I was doing. Jocko Willink is a former Navy SEAL commander who preaches that Discipline Equals Freedom. He says to get up every morning at 4:30 and workout. Not only is he is saying to do this, but there is a whole community of people doing this very thing. They are getting up when the rest of the world is still sleeping and they get after it. Now I am a part of that community and actively holding myself accountable by participating. So here is a tip of my hat and a thank you to the 0445Club, the Samarai Gang, and the Troopers. Consequently, my success rate is over 95%, 7 days a week.

My system for fitness is working. And if it works here, it can work in almost any aspect of my life. I can create a system for writing that ensures a consistent daily output. Having a system for personal finances keeps the bills paid on time and more money in the bank. Developing a system for whatever aspect I want to improve in my life gets me much closer to accomplishment, than the throwing of a quarter in the wishing-well of a goal. I haven’t completely tossed out the creation of goals in my life, but they are now only a starting point to the building of a systematic plan for accomplishing the mission.

There must be a beginning to any great matter –But the continuing unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, yields the true glory. –Sir Francis Drake